The 48-hour nationwide trade union strike, invoked against the Centre’s ‘anti-labour’ policies, brought life to a standstill across several districts in Kerala on Tuesday.
The biggest casualty of the strike has been the train network in the state, with protesters organising rail blockades and commuters who were dependent on trains to reach their destinations were heavily affected. Major lifeline trains connecting the state’s northern districts to the capital such as the Venad Express, Janshatabdi Express, Malabar Express and Chennai Mail remained stranded at different stations and ran way beyond schedule. The Divisional Railway Manager in Thiruvananthapuram announced that Venad Express will remain partially cancelled between Ernakulam and Shoranur. The Ernakulam-Kayamkulam Passenger train was fully cancelled on Tuesday.
Commuters also found it difficult to commute from railway stations to their homes, as private, state transport buses, as well as autorickshaws and private cabs, remained off-roads. In Thiruvananthapuram, numerous patients and their families, who had booked appointments at the Medical College and the Regional Cancer Centre, had to stand for hours at the railway station before the police arranged alternate options.
Except for special chain services between Nilakkal and Pamba on the Sabarimala route, the KSRTC (public bus company) suspended services on all major routes across the state fearing a backlash from protesters. A large section of the KSRTC employees were also aligned with trade unions affiliated to the CPM and the Congress, who have invoked the strike.
However, in keeping with their decision to boycott all future shutdowns in the state, trader organisations gave a call to open shops and businesses with the aid of police security. Trade unions have promised they would not forcibly close shops as part of the strike but nevertheless requested them to sympathise with problems faced by labourers and participate in the strike. In Kochi, Broadway, the site of the biggest wholesale and retail traders market, remained open on Tuesday. ‘Mithaithruvu’ or the sweet street in northern Kozhikode district remained open too, albeit with tough police security. The street was witness to violent clashes at a recent shutdown organised by an RSS-backed outfit.
Late Monday night, there were long queues outside fuel stations in Kochi as people flocked to buy fuel ahead of the 48-hour shutdown.